The Catalan GP is slightly more than the standard home race for Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro who grew up just kms from the Barcelona circuit.
Coming off the back of four consecutive podiums and following his maiden victory in the premier class, Espargaro is dedicating the race to his daughter Mia with a helmet commemorating the team of doctors who helped to save her young life, after her arrival with heart complications.
“Four years ago here during the Barcelona GP, my twins were born and my girl had a problem on the heart,” Espargaro explained from his native paddock. “She's been operating twice so I suffered a lot and thanks to CorAll family - the group of the doctors that did everything possible - I have the feeling that I arrive now and have a huge impact on the people and the society. So it's my way to say thanks to them, to pay tribute to them. Mia is still very, very young to realise this but for the doctors, for everybody CorAll family, is my way to say thanks to them.
“Every year the home GP is special, is very beautiful, very nice,” he continued. “During my career, when you're young is more difficult to deal with this pressure, to deal with a lot of people coming but year by year I tried to improve this and I make it more normal.
“This year again is completely different because I arrive in the best shape of my career, fighting on top so it's fantastic. I feel very good and I will try to enjoy as much as I can. Working hard from FP1 to prepare the bike and put a good show on Sunday.
“Extra pressure I had when I arrived here in 10th/12th place in the championship and I was ready to fight for the podium but I crashed every year because I go 200 per cent. I wasn't, myself and the bike, was not ready to go with the results that I was dreaming. So actually this year I don't have more pressure, is the opposite. I know I will enjoy.
“I have no doubt that the bike will be competitive here and I have no doubt that I will be competitive here as well. So trying to keep the feet on the ground but enjoy as much as I can.
“I've been here all my life,’ he said fondly. “This is like my second home. My school was exactly three km's from here. We could listen, especially on summer where you open the window, you could hear the engines of the cars, of the bikes and you always dreamed to arrive here one day. After all my career, because I'm not anymore a young rider, so after all my career I can say that I'm very happy to be here still. Has been a pleasure to be able to race in the maximum category in this track in Barcelona. So hopefully I can do also a good race on Sunday.
“More or less the bike is working everywhere,” Espargaro confirmed of his potential, after an impressive and consistent start to the season with the RS-GP. “But for example in Mugello, behind Fabio [Quartararo] I struggled a lot on the change direction, he was able to carry a lot more speed than me. Here in Barcelona there are less change direction, but also the engine performance is very, very important. So Pecco [Bagnaia] and Bestia [Enea Bastianini] will be very strong as well because they've been also in the last races. Every circuit has his points good and bad for my bike but I think Barcelona suits quite good the RS-GP.”